It was a close vote that came down to a late surge, but pitcher Adam Plutko is officially our No. 9 Cleveland Indians prospect for 2016. Plutko won the poll with 34 percent of the vote (99 votes), followed closely by 2015 first-round pick Triston McKenzie with 31 percent (91 votes) and Yandy Diaz finished at a distant third with 24 percent (69 votes).
The Indians drafted Plutko in the 11th round of the 2013 draft, although he did not make his first pitch as a member of the Indians organization until 2014. Plutko’s 2014 season was unimpressive, as he carried a 4.08 ERA and a 4.00 FIP through 97.0 innings in High-A ball, and he was giving up a little over one home run per nine innings. However, Plutko followed up that lukewarm 2014 campaign with an excellent 2015 season that caused him to shoot up most prospect lists.
It was in 2015 that Plutko began showing the outstanding control that made him a coveted pick of the Tribe two years earlier. Plutko has four pitches -- a curveball, a slider, and a changeup, and a low-90s fastball -- and he has plus-level control of all of them. He dominated High-A ball in 2015, with a 1.27 ERA, 2.51 FIP, and a 2.8 percent walk rate before he was promoted to Double-A after only 49.2 innings. Plutko’s numbers dipped in Double-A, as one would expect, but he still maintained a commendable 2.86 ERA and 3.37 FIP.
He will never be a pitcher to blow batters away with stuff, but similar to many pitchers in the Indians organization, he relies on control and pitch variety. Plutko’s ceiling may not be as high as a Brady Aiken or Mike Clevinger, but he could make the majors as early as 2016, depending on how well he performs in Double-A or Triple-A, wherever he starts the season.
MLB.com has Plutko ranked as the Indians 14th overall prospect with a 45 overall grade (on a 20-80 scale), and his changeup as his best pitch at a 55 rating. John Sickels of Minor League Ball has him 10th overall right behind Brady Aiken with a B- grade. Plutko was left off Baseball Prospectus’ Top 10 Indians prospect list, but they praise his pitch variety and command.